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First-of-its-kind health conference starts Monday in Minneapolis

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What started as a failed attempt to bring the World's Fair to Minnesota is now driving a first-of-its-kind health and wellness conference starting Monday in Minneapolis.

Organizers of the three-day MANOVA Global Summit expect to attract about 900 attendees, primarily from the region's health care sector.

The idea to mobilize people around the notion of "health and wellness for all" first came about when a group put forth a bid to host the 2023 World's Fair in Bloomington. Minnesota lost out to Buenos Aires, Argentina, but the initial concept of a global health summit wouldn't go away.

"The power of that theme and how it resonated with people literally around the world was an awakening for some of us," said Kathy Tunheim, CEO of Minneapolis-based public relations and consulting firm Tunheim. "We came back here and started thinking about how to bring about that kind energy and lift up this idea in a different form."

Tunheim said the Twin Cities is well-poised to host such a conference because it's home to several health care companies, medical startups and academic institutions.

The conference is intended to spur conversations about access and affordability, medical innovations, and — just in time for the midterm elections — the politics of healthcare. Speakers include former Medicare and Medicaid chief Andy Slavitt, media mogul Arianna Huffington, and married political pundits James Carville and Mary Matalin.

Tunheim also said she sees the conference as a recruitment and branding tool for Minnesota's health care industry.

"Part of this is absolutely raising up our region as the place to have these kinds conversations, the place to do this kind of work," she said.

Minnesota Public Radio is a partner in the conference, and the Mayo Clinic and Walmart are sponsors. Organizers hope to make it an annual event, with an increasingly global reach and holistic focus.